Presenter. Entrepreneur. Athlete. Esports enthusiast. TEDx Speaker. Claire Jedrek is literally everything, everywhere all at once. Amongst the varied titles, the multi-hyphenate is perhaps most known for being Singapore’s only professional female race car driver. In 2015, she won her first podium placing at the Malaysian Grand Prix Support Race where she came in second place. Two kids later, Claire bagged the championship title with 5 teammates at Singapore’s inaugural 12 hour karting endurance race in 2019. Damn.
While Claire might not be hot on the tracks these days, her life isn’t short on action. In April 2023, she collaborated with Citigold—Citibank’s privilege banking and wealth management arm—and award-winning photographer Geoff Ang, for Portraits of True Worth—a multi-media exhibition held at the Ion Art Gallery.
With Claire standing there, right before our eyes, we figured, there was no better time or place than to ask the question that’s all on our minds: how did she manage to make all this a financially-viable career, especially in Singapore? If pro racing is in the pipeline for you, read on to learn how she kickstarted her career. Having a spouse who races too sure helps, but there’s really much more to it. And if you’re here to live life vicariously through Claire, um, you’re also at the right place. Let’s go.
So, athlete, entrepreneur, mom of two—hope we didn’t miss anything out. How did all this begin?
It’s always been about extreme sports for me. I’m drawn to doing things that I’m able to compete in. For race car driving, it’s been a very personal journey. 12 years ago, I had just returned to Singapore from Australia after getting out of a relationship and I met my now husband soon after. At that time, I was looking to go back to emceeing, because I was already emceeing for Red Bull TV and Formula One events.
And then I received an opportunity to host a championship go karting event. From there, I started joining leagues. I got to know people. And then very naively, I thought, “oh, maybe I could try racing.”
I’m going to be upfront here—racing isn’t a conventional career path, at least in Singapore. How did you manage to make it a financially viable career?
My real business was to raise funds. That’s actually what racing really is. There are different types of race drivers—some are paid by companies, some are self-funded. And then there are those like me, people who believe in marketing my story to brands and essentially getting funding from them to go racing. So yeah, that’s what I did. I put out the old fashioned deck, just like a marketing plan. Of every 100 doors I knocked on, maybe 2 would reply.
Woah, door-to-door knocking? Who was the first person to believe in you?
A diamond company. A lot of people have a misconception that sponsors have to be specifically related to the sports market. But that’s not the case. Honestly, if I could put tampons, I would have put it all on my head. Of course, that’s if Tampax would have me. Oh, I also had a baby company and a sustainable products company sponsor me as well. There was a whole variety.
What do you think was 1 key skill that helped you win the hearts of sponsors?
Branding. When I started, my husband had already been racing for many years. So he gave me his IP of how to do it. But then of course, I stood in front of the mirror for days on end, repeating my pitch. After 3 years of doing it, you can get very thick skinned. You also get very good at writing a deck and knowing what your story is.
But even then, I think it’s very hard to put the word out there. When you’re selling the idea of racing, people talk in terms of KPI. The question from potential sponsors is, “If I gave you $50,000, what do I get in return?” But really, it’s not as straightforward as spending $1 to get $1 back. And so, you need to be able to teach people branding. The branding takes years.
When you look at Formula One and you see who’s on the branding for Mercedes team, you just know that they have Monster, Bose, etc.. You see the brands all the time that you just know, even if you don’t realise it. The brands are just playing into your brain. So I needed to make companies understand my value.
How did you make companies see your worth?
I became good at marketing. I had a story to tell. At that time, I was a woman in my 30s who just started racing out of nowhere. People liked that story because it was about breaking barriers. I tried to be inclusive by showing that I’m just the average person. I didn’t come from a sporting background. In fact, my parents sold vegetables at a store.
Would you consider yourself a financially savvy person?
I’ve been working since the age of 16. I was waitering and doing commercials while going to school. Working since I was 16 years old means that I’ve also spent like a 16 year old. The biggest thing that my parents taught me, which I do believe is really important, was to never spend beyond my means. That meant saving up to buy things, not buying them on loans. Because of that, I’ve never been in debt.
Debt-free, that’s amazing. How did that work out for you later on in your life?
So with all this money which I saved from working, I didn’t put my savings anywhere and I never invested. I blew it all on travel and I lived week to week.
Wait, you did what?
It was so tough. I remember moments where I was just like, “Okay, I’ve got $7 for dinner, where are we going to get Korean rice? And that’s it for the day.” When I was really on my own, knowing that I had big amounts to pay, it really forced me to look at what was spending because there was no bailout.
Any words of wisdom from mama to the young ones?
Nobody teaches you how to handle your finances as an adult. My parents were busy hustling so all they could do was remind me to pay my bills on time. School doesn’t teach you either. What are the options at this age that you can do which are safe? What are the risks? How do you handle your cash flow? So that’s something I would impart to my kids or my younger self.
Not to be dramatic, but is there a personal finance tool that completely changed your life?
I consider myself pretty advanced technology-wise so it’s crazy that I never used an invoicing system until 5 years ago. I was used to filling in all my invoices individually and then having to dig it up at times. Then I found Invoice Home, a platform which helps you generate invoices and keep track of them. (It can help you find out which customers you billed the most to, or find out which services are your best sellers.)
This has been a lifesaver when it comes to filing my taxes each year. I’m just like, “What was I doing all this while?” Invoice Home just made my life so buttery and easy; it’s like I have a hot knife. This has been one of the biggest things for me as a freelancer.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Original article: Living Week to Week and Pitching Door to Door—Former Pro Race Car Driver Claire Jedrek On What It Takes to Make Racing a Career.
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